Meeting the Curve Head On
Part one of Meeting the Curve Head On
By Aaron Cox
Throughout my career I've often heard the following statements given in regards to how I should manage my own technology skill development, "You have to keep up with the curve" and, "Always stay ahead of the curve". Innovation and change has always been the driving force of the tech industry. However the technology world around us is changing at an unprecedented pace. This is a time like no other in any industry, and how we approach our own growth must evolve, rather than trying to chase or outrun innovation. I suggest we meet it head on.
Every 7-10 years tectonic shifts happen in the technology industry and the after shocks always persist every couple of years. For example, the revolution of the age of Client Server solutions and the following revisions and advancements to operating systems, management tools, and architecture trends. Then the evolution to virtualization and the extensive value and difficulty that came with managing the first disposable and automated infrastructure. The last few years though this cycle of drastic shifts has taken an even faster path. Converged infrastructure attempted to replace the traditional silos of Compute, Network, and Storage. It was replaced overnight with Hyper Converged. All this while both solutions simultaneously tried to fend off Public Cloud. As containers finally became acceptable and understood in the enterprise, almost immediately they seem to be facing their potential disruptor with Serverless within grasp of the enterprise (we won't debate the difference or value between containers and serverless in this article). The cycle is just moving faster and faster and most technology organizations will likely have to skip certain phases of evolution to meet their ability to adapt. Therefore you will have to make bets on where you invest your time and career.
So what does that mean for the rest of us? As a professional invested in your technology career how do you keep up? In the past you have likely focused on one or a small handful of technical domains. Driving your focus to a single technology stack or domain. Diving deep with focused certification or just well rounded on the job practice. For over a couple of decades it has been enough selecting what you wanted and chasing it, although the trend was fast moving, it was still slow enough for you to catch it.
The ability to chase down technologies is a thing of the past, their lifecycle is now faster than most of us will ever be able to catch them, especially before their period of relevance has likely peaked. Any football player who has spent much time on the defensive side of the game will tell you whenever possible they don't chase the opposing players. Instead defenders will use angles to determine the best location they can meet the opposing player head on and follow that path. This technique allows the defender to most efficiently reach their target, it essentially becomes a game of knowing your speed and choosing your angles at that point.
Consider your professional development going forward in the same scenario. If you only chase trends by the time you reach them it will be too late, or even worse your organization may adopt too late and your skillset/experience may keep your next career opportunity out of reach. The 7-10 year innovation cycle has thinned to a 2-3 year cycle which requires us to adapt at a speed professionals have never had to meet before, it means we need to be thinking daily about where we want our career to go and be willing to adjust our angle of pursuit as our goals and the industry continue to speed along their path. It also means we need to be honest with ourselves about our own speed and investment necessary to hit our goals.
So how does one accomplish this? Education, experimentation, and relationships.
How do you prove that those worked? Certification.
In the past if you wanted to learn it meant a week (or more) out of the office at an expensive training class with expensive training materials. If you wanted to experiment you had to find ways to obtain old infrastructure and stack it awkwardly somewhere in your house. Then hope that your kids wouldn't play with them, and your spouse wouldn't frown every time they saw the stack of old Dell and Sun servers piled in the corner. It was often an exercise in futility to find the necessary software and licenses to actually have something worth deploying. It was all very time consuming and perhaps expensive. As for relationships there were open source projects, reddit, and your co-workers. Professional communities were tough to come by.
The good news is the world is changing and how you pursue your career goals should as well. There are now a vast number of affordable training options available. Experimentation can now be done easily and on demand. Building relationships and finding contacts has never been easier. In addition the value and purpose of certification is slowly adjusting, choosing the right path for your goals is very important. In my following articles I will detail each of the 4 steps and available options to enhancing your skills and career: Education, Experimentation, Relationships, and Certification,
Part 3 - To Certify or Not to Certify?